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May 27, 2024 | 11 min read

On-Page vs Off-Page SEO: What's the Difference?


Want to reach #1 on Google search results pages? On-page and off-page SEO can help you get there.

Building a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is like constructing a house—you need four walls for a firm foundation that not only shelters your brand but enables it to weather the changing environment. These four walls (content marketing, technical strategy, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO) are what help generate interest in your brand, drive traffic to your products and services, and, over time, make your brand stand out as the best on the block.

While it’s best to leverage all four SEO pillars for maximum impact, we’re focusing on just one-half of the strategic blueprint for now: on-page and off-page SEO.

The Importance of On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO

Have you ever wondered how people end up on your brand’s website? What about what compels them to purchase something from your site over a competitor’s? That, my friend, is largely down to SEO. While many web surfers hop on and off sites that interest them, SEO is what determines how likely it is that your website will be an option for them.

Think about it this way: Whenever you ask Google to find the best Mexican restaurant near you or to help you decide what you should buy for your significant other for their birthday, do you ever look for options on the second search results page? How about on the bottom half of the first search results page?

Yeah, didn’t think so. In fact, you wouldn’t be alone: A study by Backlinko found that only 0.63% of Google users make it to the second search results page. Meanwhile, the same study found that the first result that pops up gets an average click-through rate of 27.6%. That’s an enormous difference. But the reason certain sites do so well compared to others is that they go all in on SEO.

Google (among other search engines) ranks websites based on various factors like quality of content, usability, and authority. In turn, SEO helps propel all the elements of your brand so that it gets on Google’s good side and rises through the ranks of search engine results. Now, how do on-page and off-page SEO fit into the picture? They help you accomplish brand visibility and awareness in unique ways—let’s dive deeper.

On-Page SEO: Perfecting What’s Under Your Control

As its name suggests, on-page SEO consists of tactics you use on your website’s pages to make them as engaging, compelling, and user-friendly as possible. The goal here is to both create and nurture traffic to your brand. As a veteran web user like yourself, you may have seen a few of these common on-page SEO strategies already:

  • Catchy Keywords: Search engines use these snippy phrases or code words to determine whether or not your webpage is relevant to a particular user. Placing them thoughtfully (and naturally) within your content helps search engines understand what your page is about. A word of advice? Resist the urge to stuff keywords—Google doesn’t like it, and your users will view it as spammy.
  • Self-Linking: One-of-a-kind content can (and should) be used as an opportunity to redirect users to other relevant pages on your website. Embedding internal links throughout your blogs will create a web of authority that keeps users on your pages for a while.
  • Image Optimization: No one likes a website with slow-loading images. Compressing photos or graphics and tagging them with relevant metadata helps improve your site's performance and accessibility.

On-page SEO helps you manage the aspects of your website that you can control—but what about those that you can’t?

Off-Page SEO: Building a Good Rap Beyond Your Site

While on-page SEO is a sure way to keep everything on your site in top form, off-page SEO is like having a great PR team. It’s all about the work that’s done outside of your site that helps defend your brand’s ethos and reputation. We’re talking about:

  • Social Media: Engagement that gets users and fans buzzing about your brand is one of the best ways to drive momentum to your site. So don’t be afraid to get social and communicate with your audience through the channels they enjoy most.
  • Beneficial Backlinks: These are the online equivalent of endorsements from other reputable sources. When other sites link to yours, they pass on a bit of their authority—like a nod of approval.
  • Guest Blogging: Contributing to other blogs allows your brand to reach new audiences, secure more backlinks, and grow your thought leadership portfolio to extend your brand’s reach.

The aim of off-page SEO? To grow your brand’s reputation and authority, and convince search engines that you’re a credible source.

How to Master On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO

Are you wondering how you can push your brand to the top of search results pages? Try these tried-and-tested tactics.

On-Page SEO Strategies

Use Title Tags

Your title tag is like the headline of a newspaper article; it should be captivating and informative, include your primary keyword target, and should tell search engines and users what your page is about. Keep it under 60 characters to ensure it displays properly in search results.

Optimize Headings

Headings help organize content in a structured manner, making it easier for users to navigate and for search engines to understand the hierarchy and relevance of your content. Don’t forget to squeeze in keywords where relevant.

Prioritize Meta Data

Those pesky little boxes on WordPress that ask for alt text, meta descriptions, and URL slugs? Don’t ignore them. These snippets of information help improve user accessibility and help search engines better understand the purpose of your page, so take the time to whip up some copy—it could make a world of difference to your site’s visibility.

Aim for Speedy Load Times

If your website takes forever to load, users aren’t going to wait around, so ensure your pages are optimized to provide a smooth and fast user experience. Not only are fast load times more efficient for visitors, but they also reduce bounce rates, which can positively impact your search engine rankings.

Keep Keywords King

Perhaps the most important driving factor of SEO—keywords should always be used whenever possible. Just be sure to do your research first. You can use tools like SEMrush to help you target popular and promising keywords and improve your chances of ranking high for them. Word of advice: Go for long-tail keywords that are more specific in nature, if you can, like “ai in healthcare monitoring” instead of “ai”, or “banking strategies for millennials” instead of “financial consultancy.” These will be less saturated, giving you an opportunity to lead in these search results pages before others do.

Focus on Quality over Quantity

Google values high-quality content that satisfies user intent, not a hefty content library full of gibberish. So, focus on creating informative, well-researched content that addresses your audience's needs and questions.

Make Everything Mobile-Friendly

Almost everyone nowadays has their noses stuck in front of a smartphone, which means if your site comes up on their screen, you’ll want it to adjust smoothly to different screen sizes. Otherwise, it’ll discourage users from exploring your site further.

Off-Page SEO Strategies

Go Local

Are you a small business or a regional branch of a larger organization? List your office in Google My Business. This allows your brand to show up in local search results and Google Maps, helping you reach your local audiences.

Enter Online Discussions

Although social media doesn’t directly impact your SEO ranking, active engagement can definitely drive traffic to your site. Share useful (and fun) content, respond to comments, and connect with your audience to give people a chance to get to know your brand.

Beef Up Backlinks

Don’t be shy—if you’ve got industry partners, ask if they can reference your relevant blogs in their own articles or white papers to direct eyes to your brand as well. If you’re new to the business, it’s time to network and think of ways to collaborate with other players. It’s not only good for SEO but also for your business’s future.

Tap into Unlinked Mentions

If you notice a fellow industry player referencing your brand’s name or website on their own site, ask if they can add a backlink for added value. It's great that users on their site come across your brand, but it’s even better when they’re directed right to it.

Which SEO Strategy is Better for Your Business?

As we’ve mentioned, covering all your bases and embracing all SEO strategies doesn’t hurt, but sometimes, it’s best to start one tactic at a time. But how do you know if you should start with on-page or off-page SEO?

If you’ve just launched an online website or are in the process of revamping it, on-page SEO should be your focus. Before you can generate outside attention, you’ll need to build a content portfolio and a solid online presence, ensure your website is running at its best, and ultimately create an experience worth bragging about. Otherwise, users (and Google) won’t find a reason to linger on your site or reference it on other pages.

On the other hand, if your business already has a strong website and online presence, it’s recommended to pivot your attention to an off-page SEO strategy, where you can enhance your authority, expand your reach, and establish credibility in a competitive market.

SEO should always be part of your online marketing strategy, on or off your site. But sometimes, figuring out where to start or how to implement these tactics successfully over the long term can be tricky. The good news is that there are agencies out there (psst, like Terra) that can do all of this for you.

Rise to the Top with Terra

You’ve worked hard to build your brand, so let’s flaunt it! From keyword and topic research to performance analytics and beyond, Terra taps deep into our repertoire of SEO expertise to give your brand the exposure and attention it deserves. We start with a thorough audit to identify your strengths and weaknesses, then get to work applying strategies that will best benefit your business model and goals. After all, your brand is unique and deserves an approach that’s tailored to your specific situation.

But enough yapping from us—let’s show you what we can do. Get in touch with a Terran today!

We’re looking forward to working with you, too.

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